Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has confirmed that the United States plans to keep 500 to 600 troops on the ground in Syria and that the U.S. would continue to partner with Syrian Democratic Forces.
That number is consistent with a statement made by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley earlier this week, telling ABC News that the U.S. footprint in Syria would be reduced to "less than 1,000 for sure, and probably in the 500-ish range, maybe six."
"We're going to have about 500 to 600-ish troops there, at the end of the day. We're still moving troops out of northeastern Syria," Esper told reporters during a flight to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Wednesday.
Speaking with reporters en route to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Esper said the withdrawal of troops is consistent with the essence of the Syria mission, which is the "enduring defeat of ISIS."
Last month, President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw American troops from the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria, drawing bipartisan anger in Congress.
Two days later, after the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced, Trump said U.S. military forces "may have to fight for the oil."
On Wednesday Esper said denying ISIS access to oil fields denies them to a source of revenue.
Esper demurred when asked whether the mission enables the Kurds to sell oil to Assad, saying, "I'm not sure how the oil market works in Syria."
Source: UPI News.